1000 Places To See Before You Die is more than a mere checklist; the book is a call to adventure. This year, we’ve teamed up with Patricia Schultz, the author behind the NYT #1 best-seller, to bring you a special adventure she helped curate and will host.
We caught up with Patricia Schultz to learn more about 1000 Places To See Before You Die and to find out what she’s most looking forward to about her 2018 WildChina journey.
Patricia, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Can you please tell us a little bit about 1000 Places To See Before You Die?
I’d been a travel writer for many years when I was lucky enough to meet a publisher who shared my excitement about the idea of 1000 Places To See Before You Die. It had become a lifelong quest, this attempt to compile an inspiring list of destinations from around the world. I was given one year to complete the book but it was a full eight before it was finally on the shelf.
The book is universal and comprehensive – it does not feature a particular city or country, but rather the world at large. Nothing on that scale had ever been attempted before. After I realized what I had signed on for, I went home and I cried. It was an exhilarating assignment – I had just been given a contract to do what I loved – but it was daunting. Its message is this? The world is great, and time is limited. Go now.
The assignments and guidebooks I had written before were limited by comparison. But this book was about everything, everywhere. My publisher told me to just write for myself – after all, I was a traveler interested in everything – music festivals, a great meal, natural beauty, history, design, world-class museums, architecture, culture. Keeping the selection down to 1000 was an impossible challenge.
Did I miss a lot? Were there places that should’ve gone in the book that didn’t? Of course. I think a lot of the success of the book was due to the fact that it was the voice of one person. The book was not written by a team or group of specialists. It was just me, wanting to share my favorite places both iconic and humble, and trying to do justice to the wonders of the world. It was the most challenging assignment that a travel writer could ever think to embrace.
In the blink of an eye, it has been 15 years since the book was first published. I am regularly updating and revising it, always trying to keep the book relevant and fresh as I stumble upon new (and not so new) exciting destinations. With every revision, the book has changed – and it needs to change as I change, as the world travel changes. And the more I travel, the longer my list gets!
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Your 2018 WildChina hosted tour won’t be your first visit to China. Can you please tell us about your previous experiences in the Middle Kingdom?
In terms of China, I was a late bloomer. Young adventurers today from the States head directly to Asia. When I started out traveling, I saved the more challenging places like Africa, the Middle East, and China until I had more confidence under my belt. My Life List of places to visit included just about everywhere – and I went wherever there was cheap airfare. I was doing Air BnB with my apartment before it even existed. A friend of a friend would call out of the blue about availability and I’d respond with ‘Yeah – I’m outta here!’ – Mine was a very unconventional lifestyle!
Travel is commonly determined by time and money and China demanded both. It was intimidating to me. But that energy of China’s mega cities that many people may find frightening, I found exhilarating. You touch down, and you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. Unlike visiting Berlin, or Lima, or Moscow, you can’t just keep your mouth closed and hope to blend in. In China you’re taller and decidedly western-looking. You’re suddenly in a very different position and vulnerable – always. It’s a unique adventure, an experience that is very different from visiting Europe – and in many ways far more rewarding.
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Do you have any advice for people considering a trip to China?
A lot of travelers stay away from China for the wrong reasons. I’m often told it is because of the language and the inescapable fear of not being able to communicate – or perhaps about getting ‘ripped off’. I think there is a concern of an insurmountable cultural barrier and an intimidation factor that holds in both large cities and small towns. That is where WildChina’s presence and expertise is invaluable. It becomes a very different experience for the individual traveler when in the hands of an experienced tour operator who takes care of the logistics and particulars, and hand-picks excellent guides who share their enthusiasm and knowledge.
For me, thinking about a trip years later and finding it still gives me goose bumps – that’s the gift of travel. China is not an easy trip – it takes money and time. But it is worth every effort. China has always held a critical role in the history of the world – and today is even more relevant to our future. You almost owe it to yourself to visit.